In the Interim: A New Column by Fr. Ken Fields

In the Interim is the name of a column I’ll be sharing with you during our time together. It is, also, a description of where St. Thomas is right now, between rectors, and many of you no doubt have questions and concerns about what being in the interim will bring. Many may also have very definite ideas about what should—or should not—happen during this period.

I think we can find some interesting guidelines toward seeing what an interim might bring by looking back to what Luke says happened right after Jesus ascended from the midst of the faithful up into heaven. We find that account at the end of Luke’s Gospel and in the other work attributed to him, The Acts of the Apostles.

At the end of his Gospel, Luke tells us that Jesus led his followers out as far as Bethany, where he blessed them, and, as he did, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven. At the beginning of Acts, Luke tells us that, as the followers of Jesus were still looking up at the cloud which took Jesus away, two men in white robes (Lukan shorthand for a couple of angels) spoke to them: “What are you doing, just standing around looking up like that?” (my own take on their words). And with that admonition, the group returned to Jerusalem.

And thus their interim began: They knew that something was going to happen. Jesus himself had assured then of that. But what were they to do in the meantime? Some probably just wanted to wait and see, to do nothing till whatever it was that Jesus had promised had taken place, but that’s not what happened. When they got back to town, Peter stood up and called the group to action. “We’ve got,” he said, “to choose someone to replace Judas.” And so, almost at the beginning of their interim, they held an election, a sort of diocesan convention like the one we held recently to elect Jeff Fisher as our new Bishop Suffragan. In that election (or, actually, a toss of the dice), Matthias was chosen to be numbered among the Twelve. They had acted rather than waiting for something to happen, and the nascent Church received its ecclesiastical structure and polity.

Interim periods can be, as the Acts of the Apostles shows us, a fruitful time when important things can be done.

Of course, shortly after Matthias joined the ranks of the leaders of the Church, the thing Jesus had promised did happen, and the Holy Spirit descended upon them, casting out any remaining shred of doubt and enabling them to forge ahead with their work which would in only a few years shape the whole of the western world.

But in the midst of their missionary zeal, in the midst of their spreading the Good News, first to their own and then beyond just the Jews alone, something else happened early on in the history of the Church, something which, I feel, happened because, during that interim period, under Peter’s guidance, they had taken on the task of getting themselves ready  for business by securing leadership for the flock. In the 4th chapter of Acts, we hear a description of what must surely be the first Every Member Canvass, the first stewardship drive. It reached deeper than the tithe, since all gave all and those who had nothing received so that there was, according to St. Luke, not a needy person among them. (In the fifth chapter, by the way, we hear the sad story of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, who tried to get around this first stewardship drive, but that’s the topic for another column).

The point of these early accounts of the Church is that good things can happen during interims: decisions can be made and actions taken which benefit the Church, and, if we read those first few pages of  Acts, what we find is that during that early interim, two things were present, two things which made the interim so positive. Those two things were belief and prayer: belief, because they had seen the risen Lord and knew they could put themselves wholly in the pierced hands of the One who had conquered even death itself, and prayer, because they knew that prayer was the conduit that kept them connected to that same One, the One who had loved them so much He gave up his life for them and, in so doing, made life eternal present for them as well.

In the interim period at St. Thomas, let us remember the lessons these early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles present to us, and, strong in our belief and constant in prayer, let us also move forward, taking this parish nearer to our Lord, to whom be all honor, glory, praise and thanksgiving, now and forever.

With His love and mine,

Ken +

September 28, 2012